Children’s Museum updates city on plans for new site, possibility of parkland use

City Commissioners got an update on plans for the Children’s Museum of Montana during their Aug. 6 work session.

The museum’s director Sherrie Neff told commissioners about their current design team and effort to involve Montana industries in building exhibits.

Morony Park could be option for Children’s Museum in preliminary discussions

They’re planning to include a Parkour course with options for adults and youth.

During the Aug. 6 meeting, Neff said they’re also considering a performing arts theater with about 300 seats, depending on how fundraising and the museum’s plan comes together.

In developing their marketing plan, Neff said they’ve tapped into data collected by the Montanan tourism office on what draws people to Montana and areas that are lacking.

Children’s Museum eyeing city parkland for new facility

Commissioner Mary Moe said she loved their ideas but was a little concerned about the museum trying to be all things to all people.

She said she hoped the museum’s primary focus would continue to be on children.

Neff said the new museum would carry some of the existing exhibits that are popular with children, but would be improved.

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Neff met with city staff and the Park and Recreation Advisory Board earlier this year about the possibility of using city parkland for building a new museum.

The museum is currently in a city owned building behind the Civic Center, a building the city intends to take over when the current five-year lease expires in 2023.

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Great Falls Park and Recreation staff reviewed potential options and had a preliminary list of several city parks.

They have since removed Carter, Madison and West Side Kiwanis from consideration since they’re higher usage parks, among other factors.

Steve Herrig, Park and Rec director, said during the park board’s July meeting that the three best potential options would be Riverview, Morony or Skyline Property, a piece of city-owned property next to Skyline Elementary that is not designated as parkland.

Morony was discussed by the park board as a good potential option, subject to the city’s legal process for leasing or selling city owned property.

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During the Aug. 6 work session, Commissioner Owen Robinson said he would caution the museum team about Morony since the city has had two buildings on the site that failed because of the underground spring there.

City Manager Greg Doyon said that the Morony property has been discussed and reminded commissioners that the existing Natatorium would be demolished and if the site worked out, a new museum would be constructed after the museum’s team did their due diligence related to site conditions.

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Herrig said during the July park board meeting that they want to be very cautious about giving up any land the city might need for future use, particularly the potential for a combined indoor pool and recreation center facility.

The city is planning to start a feasibility study on the potential combined facility in the near future, likely using some Community Development Block Grant funds.

Herrig and the park board said Riverview Park could be a good location for that potential facility.

The process to lease or sell parkland will require public meetings and commission approval, but, Herrig said in July, it could give the children’s museum a place to start as a potential new location to determine whether it would work for them.